I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

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Recipe:  Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 240)




  • when did we make this? Sunday, August 24, for supper.
  • did we change anything?  Not really.  We used tomatoes from our garden, and a combination of campanelle and pipette pasta.  Interestingly, the Indigo Rose tomatoes dyed the pasta purple in places!  Fun!
  • what did we like?  This was a totally delicious way to show off the flavor of garden tomatoes!
  • what didn’t we like?  Nothing, really.  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Yes!  And I don’t think any changes are necessary.


Right now I’m in that awkward in-between phase in which my “regular” clothes don’t fit again yet, but my maternity clothes are too big and loose.  Starting soon, I’m going to need to look decently presentable at least two days per week, and so I’m trying to figure out some clothing to wear without having to buy too many pieces (especially pants) for my (hopefully) temporarily larger size.  In addition, if at all possible, I’d like to have tops that are suitable for easily nursing my baby.  It’s a tall order!

I realized that I have leggings that are pretty comfortable to wear– especially if I’m sitting on the floor (and I am on the floor a lot, playing with my 2.5-year-old and baby!).  I’d love to buy more tops that are long enough to cover me properly, but I don’t have very much time to do clothes shopping these days!  As I brainstormed ideas, I started thinking about what I might already have on hand in my own closet.

Soon after I had my baby, I was in my brother’s wedding, and I wanted to get a dress that I could nurse in to wear to the rehearsal and dinner.  I found a cross-front dress at Old Navy that was about $30.  I was kind of desperate and it was the best I’d found so far.  I figured I could return it if I found something better.  When I got to checkout, the salesgirl told me that it was an online item that had been returned to the store. If I agreed to take a no-return policy on the dress, I would get 50% off. I guess I thought it was worth it for $15.  I can’t think what made me think that this dress looked good on me when I tried it on in the store: it has exactly the features that I know are bad for my body shape– especially a waistband (elastic, no less!) right at the natural waist.  I wore the dress once and felt awkward in it and then every other time I put it on in hopes that it would look better, I regretted buying it.


The worst part of the dress is that elastic waistband. It hit me at a very bad place unless I scootched it up more empire style, and then the bodice sagged in a funny way. I also really disliked the high/low hemline.  (Seriously, I can’t believe I bought this dress!!!)  I decided to chop the dress to tunic length and adjust the waistline with some sort of a wide belt or sash, most likely made from the fabric I cut off.  In bits of spare moments, I started refashioning the dress into a tunic.

The first thing I did was re-hem the dress.  (Hooray for a cover-stitching serger!) It already looks worlds better, even without a belt!

Crummy pic, but I got it hemmed. I really need to figure out a belt.

I sent the photo above to my mom (who taught me how to sew!  Thank you, mom!) and we had a really good conversation about how I might adjust it.  She suggested taking up the shoulder seams to alleviate the awkward sagging in the bodice (which I ended up not having to do), and she also suggested some sort of a shirred belt.  The shirring idea made my brain fizz with hope!



During the next bits of stolen time, I cut an even 7″ wide strip out of the fabric I’d chopped off of the bottom of the dress.   After a bit of experimenting and discarding some bad ideas, I ended up hemming the long edges of the strip (cover stitch again!) and then stitching it into a belt to fit my waist.  I gathered the side seams to shirr it to a 4″ width, and reinforced them by stitching the gathers to some bias tape on the wrong side.  The belt covers the elastic at the tunic waist and sits high enough to effectively give the tunic an empire waistline, which is much more flattering to my body shape.  Maybe someday I’ll figure out the best way to remove the elastic altogether (it would be more comfortable if it weren’t there), but for now, I am pleased with how this refashion turned out.

finished dress-to-tunic refashion project

finished dress-to-tunic refashion project



I’m so thankful for the sewing skills to turn what was a bummer of a dress into a useful, comfortable, and much more flattering tunic!

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

~ ~ ~

Recipe:  Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (pages 207-208)




  • when did we make this? Friday, August 22, for supper.
  • did we change anything?  The recipe called for a combination of ouzo and dry white wine, but the liquor store Husband went to didn’t have ouzo, so the man at the shop recommended Sambuco, which is an anise flavored, dry wine.
  • what did we like?  I liked the sweetness of the sauce (especially from the red bell pepper): it complimented the shrimp really well.
  • what didn’t we like?  After a few bites, the flavor of the dill was really overwhelming to me.  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Not sure.  It was certainly an interesting and pretty tasty shrimp dish.  If we make this recipe again, I will definitely reduce the amount of fresh dill.  I’d also like to figure out a good side starch to serve with it.  We had bread with it when we first ate the dish, and when I had it left over the next day, I had it with couscous, which I liked a bit better.  I’m not sure what would be the best side dish, though.

For the other showers that I’ve helped to throw, I have loved providing the guest of honor with coordinating handmade thank you note cards.  So of course, it was no exception for the bridal shower for my friend!

I designed little “Merci” tags (partly in PSE7 and partly in the Silhouette Studio software to utilize the print-and-cut feature) that coordinate with all the other “paper goods” for the shower, and I attached the tags to the front of a cream-colored card atop a knotted ribbon and half a paper doily (I love the look of white-on-cream.  It looks even better in person!).

"Merci" cards for vintage-rustic-French bridal shower gift


The design is quite simple, but that’s because I made three dozen cards!!

three dozen "Merci" cards for vintage-rustic-French bridal shower gift

My dear friend, whom I have known since we were both 2 years old (does that make her my “oldest” friend?  I don’t think that sounds very flattering ;-)) is getting married this fall!  I am honored to be one of her bridesmaids, and together with her other bridesmaids, we threw her a shower.  The other ladies did a wonderful job with the shower plans, and part of my contribution was to design the invitation and some tags and cards.  These were some of my very last projects that I completed before my baby was born!

(I LOVE this kind of digital design!!)

After we decided that the shower would have a rustic and vintage French flair, I searched on Pinterest to get an idea of what that might look like.  Here’s the 4×6 version of the invitation that I designed (I purposely have mis-dated it for blog purposes):


Based on this design, I made thank-you flags for the cupcake favors…





…as well as notecards upon which guests wrote notes of encouragement and advice to the bride and groom.  These cards will be interspersed in an album among photos from the shower.



I made a coordinating “instructions” card to be placed near the cards:


Digital supplies:
Erica Coombs “Floraux” (papers 1 and 10)
CelesteKnight “Watercolor Overlays” (#2)
Chelle’s Creations “Precious” (Lace)
Jen Allyson “Vintage Findings Halloween” (Apothecary Labels)
Eiffel_Tower_Sketch_by_potterfisk0177.jpg from DeviantArt, converted into a digital brush

Fonts: Sail, Bodoni MT, Graphis, Bergamot Ornaments

I had the pleasure to be in my brother’s wedding, and when my dad asked me to help him figure out a nice way to invite guests to the rehearsal dinner, of course I had to go all-out and make a digital invitation.  Most of the invitations were emailed, but I printed one on matte photo paper– and boy, did it look nice (if I do say so myself)!  Most of the time, I don’t get to see these things printed.


Once the invitation was made, it wasn’t hard to take it one step further and make a menu card for guests’ reference at the dinner.  The restaurant serves a huge meal family-style, and my dad wanted people to be aware of the selection of food that was coming their way!  I printed these on cardstock.




Digital kit: Tuesday Morning Extras, by One Little Bird
Fonts: Amatic, Meddon, Windsong

Wedding card

My brother got married!  Congratulations to him and his new wife– we are so very, very happy for you two!  :)

I made this card to go with their gift a while ago, but I didn’t want to post it until after the wedding.


I love how it turned out.  I went through my die cuts and pulled out anything that looked “right” for the occasion– the bridesmaids wore rich purple, so I stuck with it plus white and cream as my color scheme.  After playing with the layers for a while, I felt like I’d found a good balance.  The ampersand is subtle until you shift the card to see it against the shimmery tag.





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